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This article is part of the supplement: Twentieth Annual Computational Neuroscience Meeting: CNS*2011

Open Access Open Badges Poster presentation

A metric space approach to the information channel capacity of spike trains

James B Gillespie* and Conor J Houghton

Author Affiliations

School of Mathematics, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland

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BMC Neuroscience 2011, 12(Suppl 1):P152  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-12-S1-P152

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

Published:18 July 2011

© 2011 Gillespie and Houghton; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Poster presentation

A novel method is presented for calculating the information channel capacity of spike trains. This method works by fitting a χ-distribution to the distribution of distances between responses to the same stimulus: the χ-distribution is the length distribution for a vector of Gaussian variables. The dimension of this vector defines an effective dimension for the noise and by rephrasing the problem in terms of distance based quantities, this allows the channel capacity to be calculated. As an example, the capacity is calculated for a data set recorded from auditory neurons in zebra finch.


JBG wishes to thank the Irish Research Council of Science, Engineering and Technology for an Embark Postgraduate Research Scholarship. CJH wishes to thank Science Foundation Ireland for Research Frontiers Programme grant 08/RFP/MTH1280.